Attorney General Eric Holder says major changes to drug policy coming


Attorney General Eric Holder.

Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday told NPR that too many people are in jail for nonviolent drug crimes and that there is a great need for federal drug sentencing reform in the United States.
“The war on drugs is now 30, 40 years old,” Holder told NPR. “There have been a lot of unintended consequences. There’s been a decimation of certain communities, in particular communities of color.”

Holder could present changes as early as next week at the American Bar Association conference in San Francisco. Some speculate that he could go so far as to order U.S. Attorneys to no longer certain types of low-level drug crimes, or he could simply order people sent into more treatment programs as opposed to jail.
“Well, we can certainly change our enforcement priorities, and so we have some control in that way,” Holder said in the interview. “How we deploy our agents, what we tell our prosecutors to charge, but I think this would be best done if the executive branch and the legislative branch work together to look at this whole issue and come up with changes that are acceptable to both.”
Holder’s words come on the heels of a bill introduced at the federal level last week dubbed the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013 would allow judges some room when sentencing drug offenders who otherwise might be forced into prison time due to three-strikes laws or mandatory minimum sentences that far-outweigh the crimes.
“Attorney General Holder is clearly right to condemn mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Both he and the president have an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy by securing substantial, long overdue drug policy reform.”
But what isn’t brought up in the NPR interview – and what voters in Colorado and Washington are still wondering – is how Holder will deal with state-legal recreational cannabis sales. Holder has held out on making any comments since both bills were introduced last November despite his assurance that a reply was coming “soon”.

Despite his lack of response, both Washington and Colorado are moving forward with implementing their respective recreational cannabis plans.